Best Things to do in New Mexico: Ship Rock

The 25 Best Things To Do in New Mexico

New Mexico – also known as “The Land of Enchantment” – is a beautiful state beloved for its incredible scenery, rich Native American culture, and adobe architecture. You’ll find adventure around every corner of this diverse state, whether you want to add hiking, skiing, cave exploring, or healing hot springs to your itinerary. 

Albuquerque offers access to some of the state’s most stunning natural wonders, while Santa Fe is a 400-year-old state capital and a hub of art and culture. Venture beyond New Mexico’s cities and discover off-the-beaten-path natural attractions – from volcanic rock formations to snow-white sand dunes to ancient cave dwellings.

New Mexico is also a popular culinary destination, with chili serving as a sacred ingredient found in its spicy dishes. With strong Native American influences, the state is a melting pot of creative heritage offering you an authentic taste of the American Southwest. You can even take a piece of culture home with you, with turquoise jewelry, arts and crafts, and pottery made from local artisans. 

With so many exciting things to see and do in New Mexico, you might not know where to begin. So, we’ve done the hard work for you, compiling a list of the absolute best things to do in New Mexico, including the top outdoor activities, hidden gems, and cultural attractions. Feed your wanderlust as you create your own unique New Mexico bucket list.

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25 Cool and Unique Things To Do in New Mexico

1. Explore the Creative Arts in Santa Fe

Best Things to do in New Mexico: Visit Santa Fe

Santa Fe is a prime destination for art lovers, home to a long list of unique art galleries and places to purchase Native American arts and crafts. Home to various artist studios, galleries, and craft workshops, Canyon Road is a hotspot for the creative arts.

Browse the galleries housed in historic adobe buildings to see cultural treasures such as hand-woven rugs and wood carvings or pick up pottery, jewelry, and paintings from famed artists. After a stroll along Canyon Road, drive to nearby Santa Fe Plaza to experience the city’s cultural hub. 

The winding streets surrounding the Santa Fe Plaza are dotted with galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops, while local native artisans also sell authentic Native American crafts near the Palace of the Governors. It’s the most historic (and lively) spot in the city, with the walkable area boasting an array of festivals, markets, and live music events throughout the year. 

You’ll find a long list of cultural attractions in Santa Fe, from the unique artifacts showcased at the Museum of International Folk Art to notable paintings at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. If you want to get hands-on, sign up for a workshop in the Liquid Light Glass to learn how to make your own glass creation. 

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2. Get a Dose of Culture at the New Mexico Museum of Art

Fun Things to do in New Mexico: New Mexico Museum of Art

Built in 1917, Santa Fe’s New Mexico Museum of Art is the oldest art museum in the state and deserves a mention of its own. Set in a traditional adobe building, this iconic architectural landmark showcases more than 20,000 pieces of artwork, focusing on a collection of American art from the Southwest. 

Art lovers will appreciate the museum’s diverse array of pieces, which include paintings, drawings, and photographs. There are also prints, textiles, and installations to marvel at, as well as a range of permanent and rotating exhibits. 

New Mexico Bucket List: New Mexico Museum of Art

The New Mexico Museum of Art’s collection of internationally renowned works lures in art enthusiasts from around the country. You’ll find well-known artists represented in the museum, including paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and Gustave Baumann, works by the Taos Society of Artists, and famous photographers such as Ansel Adams. 

After you browse the galleries, wander through the charming courtyard area dotted with fountains, murals, and sculptures. Check the museum’s calendar, as concerts and lectures are often held in its on-site auditorium. 


3.Explore Ancient Ruins in Pecos National Historic Park

What to do in New Mexico: Pecos National Historic Park

If you’re a history buff, you should put Pecos National Historic Park at the top of your New Mexico bucket list. Set amongst the pinon, juniper, and ponderosa pine woodlands of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this park boasts a Civil War battle site, cave dwellings, and artifacts that date back almost 1,000 years to the Ancestral Pueblo peoples. 

As you walk along its scenic trails, you can learn about the American Indians who once settled in this mountain range. Add the historic Pecos Pueblo Mission Church to your itinerary, as well as the Glorieta Pass, which is the site of the most western battle in the US Civil War. Intrepid travelers can even climb down the stairs to a reconstructed kiva (a circular ceremonial room). 

Must do Things in New Mexico: Pecos National Historical Park

For an in-depth look at the park, sign up for a ranger-guided tour to hear stories about the historic cave dwellings made from rock and mud. You can also visit the on-site museum and get an up-close look at some of the centuries-old handicrafts and tools discovered here, including Pueblo pottery, Conquistador weapons, and Civil War remnants. 


4. Follow Scenic Trails at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

New Mexico Things to do: Hike Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Another nature attraction to add to your growing New Mexico bucket list, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is famous for its scenic cone-shaped formations that rise up to 90 feet above the ground. These otherworldly formations are created by pumice, ash, and tuff deposits from volcanic eruptions that occurred about six to seven million years ago. 

Located on the Pajarito Plateau, the area offers hiking trails for those interested in exploring the geology of this astonishing landscape. Lace-up your hiking boots and follow one of the scenic routes to see numerous tent rock formations, white-colored cliffs, and stunning views of the verdant valley. 

Best Things to do in New Mexico: Hike Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The three-mile round trip Tent Rocks Canyon Trail is one of the most popular options. Passing through various rocks and canyons this trail leads you to a dizzying 750-foot climb to a lookout with gorgeous panoramic views. Alternatively, opt for the one-mile Cave Loop Trail if you’re looking for a more leisurely walk. 

Wildlife watching is also possible here, with a variety of birds, elk, deer, and wild turkeys often spotted in the area. To reach this enchanting destination, you can drive 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe or 55 miles northeast of Albuquerque. 


5. Marvel at Volcanic Landscapes in Bandelier National Monument

Unique Things to do in New Mexico: Bandelier National Monument

If you’re searching for a unique thing to do in New Mexico, Bandelier National Monument makes for a fantastic day trip. Located an hour outside of Santa Fe, it contains some of the most impressive ancient ruins in the Southwest and protects over 33,000 acres of beautiful canyon and mesa country. 

Bandelier National Monument is a fascinating attraction for history enthusiasts, highlighting evidence of Ancestral Pueblo people living here for more than 11,000 years. In addition to its ancient petroglyphs, there are also cave dwellings with ladders so you can go inside and explore them yourself.

Cool Things to do in New Mexico: Bandelier National Monument

From the Visitor Center, you can follow the 1.4-mile Main (Pueblo) Loop Trail to see some of the excavated archeological sites up-close in Frijoles Canyon. If you’re up for a challenge, hike the 3-mile Falls Trail to the Upper Falls or trek along a mesa on the 12-mile Tsankawi section to see a large unexcavated Ancestral Pueblo village. 

For a guided tour, join a ranger for an interpretive walk to the Tyuonyi pueblo. Available from July through September, the short 1-hour hike highlights the history of the monument and the area’s unique flora and fauna. 


6. Go River Rafting on the River Grande

Fun Things to do in New Mexico: River Grande Whitewater Rafting

The perfect activity for thrill-seeking adventurers, New Mexico’s Rio Grande is consistently regarded as one of the best spots for whitewater rafting in the Southwest. It’s the most popular activity on the 1,885-mile-long river and best to do during the spring and summer months. 

Ideal for all skill levels (even beginners), the rapids at the “Racecourse” traverse the largest intercontinental fault lines in North America and feature six miles of action-packed class 2-3 rapids. Brace yourself and prepare to get wet while knowledgeable guides help navigate the Maze, Albert’s Falls, the Narrows, and the Thunderdome.

New Mexico Bucket List: River Grande Whitewater Rafting

While the experience is sure to get your heart racing, there are more laid-back, scenic parts of the canyon where you can spot local wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for river otters, beavers, elk, and various bird species along your journey.  

The family-owned New Mexico River Adventures – Day Tours is one of the best options for guided rafting trips on the Rio Grande’s “Racecourse.” They offer both full and half-day adventures as well as kayaking, fly fishing, and horseback riding excursions. 


7. Soak in the Refreshing San Antonio Hot Springs

Best Things To Do in New Mexico: San Antonio Hot Springs

After a day of hiking, nothing beats a relaxing soak in a natural hot spring. Accessed by a 5-mile hike through the Santa Fe National Forest, San Antonio Hot Springs is one of the best hot springs in the USA. Once you arrive, you’ll discover three different pools featuring hot, crystal-clear waters nestled on a picturesque mountainside.

Located near Jemez Hot Springs, San Antonio Hot Springs is considered one of the best things to do in New Mexico for a reason. Only about two hours north of Albuquerque, the set of natural pools are tucked away in the Jemez Mountains and features stunning vistas of the valleys below, where the only noise you’ll hear is the tranquil sounds of nature. 

It’s possible to reach the springs via a 2-wheel drive car in the summer, but the winter season offers new challenges and it’s best to use a 4×4 vehicle during this time. While driving to the springs is an option, we recommend parking at the entrance gate and following the trail to the springs to enjoy incredible views along the way. 

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8. Roam the Cobblestone Streets of Old Town Albuquerque

New Mexico Things to do: Visit Old Town Albuquerque

A stroll through Old Town Albuquerque feels like you’ve stepped into a time capsule with its charming cobblestone streets and brightly colored adobe huts. It was the site of the original Spanish settlement, with the Pueblo-Spanish style structures now housing a collection of art galleries, museums, restaurants, and souvenir shops. 

Considered Albuquerque’s first neighborhood, Old Town Albuquerque has a rich history dating back more than 300 years. The historic area has retained much of its charming Southwestern ambiance and makes for a pleasant day of exploring, where you can meander through its large picturesque plaza surrounded by towering cottonwood trees. 

Step inside iconic landmarks, such as the 18th-century San Felipe de Neri Church, and visit its on-site museum displaying an array of religious artifacts. The nearby New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is a popular family-friendly attraction with life-size dinosaur skeletons, while the Albuquerque Museum showcases local southwestern artwork. 

Located about six miles west of the downtown area, checking out the Old Town area is a must when visiting Albuquerque. When you’ve worked up an appetite, visit one of the local New Mexican eateries serving local favorites such as beef and chicken enchiladas and deep-fried sopaipilla pastries.


9. Take Flight in a Hot Air Balloon in Albuquerque

Best Things to do in New Mexico: Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque is often regarded as one of the best places in the world to go hot air ballooning, and this city is synonymous with its renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. With the images of its balloon-filled skies seen on countless postcards, it’s said to be one of the world’s most photographed events. 

Typically held in October, hot air balloon enthusiasts come from around the globe to launch from the 78-acre Balloon Fiesta Park. The 9-day event is considered a bucket list activity in New Mexico for locals and visitors alike, offering a chance to marvel at hundreds of balloons taking flight at sunrise and twilight over the Sandia Mountains.

Cool Things to do in New Mexico: Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Don’t worry if you can’t attend the annual Balloon Fiesta, as Albuquerque’s high desert environment and fantastic weather allow a number of local companies to offer hot air balloon rides all throughout the year.

Just pick the date you want to take to the skies and get a birds-eye view of the magnificent New Mexico terrain. Rainbow Ryders is one of the most popular tour operators.

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10. Enjoy Family-Friendly Fun at ABQ BioPark

If you’re traveling to New Mexico with the kids, a visit to Albuquerque’s ABQ BioPark is a must. This unique environmental museum features four facilities: an Aquarium, Botanical Gardens, Zoo, and Tingley Beach. Located a short drive from Albuquerque’s Old Town area, the massive park offers a long list of kid-friendly things to do. 

Animal lovers won’t want to miss getting up-close to exotic and native animals in the 64-acre Zoo. In addition to meet and greets with llamas and alpacas, you can watch live shows, participate in giraffe feedings, or observe apes, elephants, wolves, and polar bears!

Alternatively, opt for a journey to the Gulf of Mexico and see aquatic animals at the Aquarium. The Shark Tank is teeming with sharks and sea turtles, while Touch Pools offer hands-on displays with rays, sea urchins, and horseshoe crabs.  

Kids will love the Botanic Garden, which features more than 1.5 miles of foliage-filled pathways that lead to a collection of whimsical gardens. Make a stop at Butterfly Pavilion to see hundreds of colorful winged beauties. 

Fishing enthusiasts will want to visit Tingley Beach for a chance to reel in catfish from its fishing ponds. However, there are other outdoor activities available here too, including wildlife watching, hiking, and boating.  


11. Take a Step Back in Time at Petroglyph National Monument

Unique Things to do in New Mexico: Petroglyph National Monument

One of the coolest things to do in New Mexico if you’re a history buff, Petroglyph National Monument is home to more than 24,000 carved images from New Mexico’s first settlers. The park is an incredible outdoor museum, where scenic hiking trails guide you to the petroglyph images found on the volcanic rocks.

Holding profound significance for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers, this 7,236-acre park is a fascinating step back in time. Families can see approximately 100 petroglyphs in one hour along the developed Boca Negra Canyon trail, which also features shaded seating areas, picnic tables, and restrooms. 

Fun Things to do in New Mexico: Petroglyph National Monument

While undeveloped, the Rinconada Canyon trail is 2.2 miles round trip and offers a chance to spot about 300 petroglyphs in roughly two hours. If that’s not enough petroglyph viewing for you, follow the Piedras Marcadas Canyon trail to get up-close to almost 400 petroglyphs along its pathway.

If you want to learn more about some of the earliest inhabitants, you can stop by the Visitor Center to browse its collection of interpretive exhibits. 


12. Ride the Cable Cars at Sandia Peak Tramway

New Mexico Bucket List: Sandia Peak Cable Cars

No visit to Albuquerque is complete without a ride on Sandia Peak Tramway, which offers 11,000 square miles of panoramic views over the Sandia Mountains. As you ascend one of the country’s most beautiful urban peaks, you can watch the dramatic natural beauty of this area unfold as you reach the sky-high observation deck. 

The tramway is an activity suitable for all ages, with the cable cars carrying you nearly three miles along a suspended cable to the summit of Sandia Peak. At the top, you can sit back and take in the stunning views, which stretch across the Rio Grande Valley and the Land of Enchantment. 

Must do Things in New Mexico: Sandia Peak Cable Cars

Over 100 scenic trails – ranging from easy to expert level – can be found within the Cibola National Forest, so get out, stretch your legs, and go for a hike! If you prefer winter sports, you can also explore 25 miles of slopes and trails at the Sandia Peak Ski Area. If you’re hungry, head to the on-site restaurant Ten 3 for fine dining at 10,300 feet above sea level!


13. See the Adobe Dwellings of Taos Pueblo

What to do in New Mexico: Taos Pueblo Adobe Houses

One of the coolest things to do in New Mexico, Taos Pueblo is a fascinating adobe settlement featuring unique dwellings and ceremonial buildings. They represent the culture of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico and showcase over 1,000 years of tradition through its beautiful multi-storied structures.  

What makes Taos Pueblo so special is that it’s the only living Native American community designated both a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Landmark. Sitting at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the pueblo is home to nearly 4,500 people who have inhabited the area for centuries. 

New Mexico Things to do: Taos Pueblo Adobe Houses

It makes for a fantastic day trip from Taos to see the adobe buildings set against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks and guided tours offer plenty of excellent photo opportunities. If you want to take home a souvenir from Taos Pueblo, pick up a one-of-a-kind treasure from one of the local artisans who sell pottery pieces, silver jewelry, and artwork. 

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14. Hit the Slopes at Taos Ski Valley

Best Things to do in New Mexico: Taos Ski Valley

If you’re a snow sports fanatic, Taos Ski Valley should be on your New Mexico bucket list. It’s the largest ski resort in New Mexico and a mecca for skiing and snowboarding, offering a diverse range of world-class terrain and 110 runs. Set at the base of Kachina Peak, Taos Ski Valley offers some of the lightest powder in North America.

The 1,294-acre park offers plenty of room to stretch out as you explore the beginner and intermediate terrain with wide-open groomers, glades, moguls, and bowls. If you’re looking for a thrill, sign up for a snowmobile tour to the peaks and ridges above Taos Ski Valley.

If you want to sharpen your skills, book a lesson with one of the pros. The skiing and snowboarding lessons are tailored to your needs and can be done in groups with your family. If you’re planning an overnight retreat, stay slopeside at The Blake at Taos Ski Valley for easy access to all the action.  

Although Taos Ski Valley is known for its incredible skiing and snowboarding opportunities in the winter months, the friendly town of Taos is a charming destination to visit year-round. You’ll find a range of activities to add to your itinerary, including hot air ballooning, river rafting, and browsing excellent art galleries and museums.

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15. Climb New Mexico’s Highest Mountain at Wheeler Peak

Cool Things to do in New Mexico: Climb Wheeler's Peak

To capture some of the best views New Mexico has to offer, test your bravery with a challenging hike up Wheeler Peak. It boasts a gorgeous landscape of towering pines, rock scrambles, serene lakes, and colorful wildflowers – but its biggest claim to fame is that it’s home to the highest point in New Mexico.

When visiting nearby Taos, add this trek to your must-do hiking list for 7.9 miles of pure adventure. Set within the Taos Ski Valley, it’s a difficult hike with steep switchbacks and uneven rock fields, but we promise the views are worth the effort!

The scenic hike takes you through a deep forest canopy where you’ll discover open expanses. From here, you can enjoy stunning views of the mountain range and Williams Lake below. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be blessed with panoramic vistas of the Carson National Forest, Taos Ski Valley, and the southernmost range of the Rockies in the distance.  

When planning your hike to Wheeler Peak, be aware that summer is the most ideal (and easiest) time to visit. The winter and shoulder months offer additional environmental conditions that might add extra challenges. 

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16. Hop Aboard Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

Unique Things to do in New Mexico: Cumbres and Toltec Railroad

If you’re a train lover Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is a must-do in New Mexico. The 64-mile day trip is one of America’s most historic and scenic railroad journeys, where a coal-fired steam engine carries you into the beautiful west. It’ll transport you back in time to the 19th century!

Along the way, you’ll have the chance to admire some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, including mountainsides of brilliant aspens, high desert, and rolling meadows. The National Historic Landmark climbs up Cumbres Pass, the highest mountain reached by rail in the United States, and offers a glimpse of mountain terrain home to bears, elk, and deer.

Fun Things to do in New Mexico: Cumbres and Toltec Railroad

Be sure to get a window seat and take in the stunning scenery as you zig and zag between the New Mexico and Colorado border. If you want to ride VIP, grab a seat in the luxurious parlor cars for Victorian-era elegance and panoramic windows. For unobstructed views, all guests can access the Open Air Gondola.

Only available from late May to October, the train departs daily from Chama, New Mexico.  For the most scenic views, plan your train journey for autumn when the aspen trees and fall foliage blooms in a vibrant array of colors.


17. Hike Chaco Culture National Historical Park

New Mexico Bucket List: Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is an off-the-beaten-path attraction in northwestern New Mexico that offers guided tours, hiking and biking trails, and camping. The park is remote and isolated, but a visit here gets you up-close with the homelands of the ancestral Puebloans as well as ceremonial buildings, kivas, and petroglyphs. 

The park boasts some of the best-preserved prehistoric structures in North America, with trails dotted with great houses dating from the mid-9th to early-13th centuries. Start by picking up a self-guided trail brochure from the Visitor Center, then cruise Canyon Loop Drive to find Insta-worthy pit stops along the way. 

Pueblo Bonito is the largest of the Cacoan great houses with 32 kivas and over 700 rooms, while Casa Rinconada offers a glimpse of a huge ceremonial structure with a 63-foot inner diameter. Biking is another option in this park, as well as backcountry hiking and desert camping. 

Only a 30-minute drive away, Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness offers a captivating one-of-a-kind landscape of sandstone cap rocks and scenic olive-colored hills. There aren’t any official trails here, but it’s worth the drive to see its unique hoodoos that vary in sizes and shapes. It’s a super photogenic spot with colorful badlands, eroded rock formations, and water-carved clay hills.


18. Stand In Four States at Once at the Four Corners Monument

Cool Things to do in New Mexico: Four Corners Monument

The Four Corners Monument, also known as Four Corners Tribal Park, is the only place in the United States where you can stand on four states at once. Sitting at the junction with Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, visiting this quirky attraction is one of the most unique things to do in New Mexico. 

First, snap a photo next to the granite and brass monument that marks the location of the four states. You can put your hands in New Mexico and Arizona and your feet in Colorado and Utah! 

After taking fun photos, browse the Visitor Center or shop at the lively on-site vendor market featuring Native American artisans. Pick up hand-made souvenirs, such as jewelry and crafts, then fill up on authentic Navajo foods. 

The location of the Four Corners Monument is remote, about one hour from Farmington. But if you love quirky roadside attractions, then adding the Four Corners Monument to your New Mexico bucket list is a no-brainer.


19. Visit Some of the World’s Top Stargazing Spots

New Mexico Bucket List: World Famous Stargazing Spots

Did you know that New Mexico has an official True Dark Skies Trail? It was one of the first states in the US to create a law that protects our night skies and is considered one of the best spots in the world for stargazing. 

New Mexico’s high elevations, low population densities, dry climate, and clean air create the perfect recipe for a stargazing adventure. You’re spoiled for choice with destinations in New Mexico to admire the Milky Way, with the True Dark Skies Trail highlighting the best places to see its unpolluted, dark skies.

Capulin Volcano National Monument is one of the best spots to enjoy a night of stargazing in New Mexico, as it hosts star parties and ranger-led talks about the night sky. Alternatively, Clayton Lake State Park has its own observatory and 14-inch Mead telescope (as well as extensive dinosaur trackways). 

Head to Chaco Culture National Historic Park for deep-sky viewing at its observatory in the summer months, or enjoy nearly unobstructed views in all directions from Gran Quivira in Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. For telescope viewing with no artificial light for nearly 25 miles, camp overnight at the Cosmic Campground.

Don’t forget to bring a tripod so you can get some amazing photos on the night sky!

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20. Browse Artifacts at the Billy the Kid Museum

Take an adventurous trip into the past by visiting the iconic Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner. History comes to life with the museum’s collection of fascinating artifacts, which highlight the life and time period of this infamous 19th-century outlaw. 

The museum offers an in-depth look at Billy the Kid’s life and the legendary stories of gunfights and outlaw heroics, displaying his real-life rifle, chaps and spurs, and an original Wanted poster. There are even chunks of Billy the Kid’s hair, saved by a New Mexico barber.

You can decide for yourself if the Wild Wild West’s best-known figure was really as bad as the stories you’ve heard. While Billy the Kid was the most famous, you can also learn about other notable outlaws in this time, along with how they lived and died as gunslingers. 

With 60,000 items on display, you’ll want to check out the museum’s other captivating exhibits, which include antique furniture, household gadgets, hundreds of guns, and John Chisum’s cavalry sword. If you’re interested in antique automobiles, there are also 1941 fire trucks, Model Ts, and Model As as well as 1956 classic cars.


21. Discover Aliens in Roswell

Must do Things in New Mexico: Discover Aliens in Roswell

Known across the globe for being the site of an alleged 1947 UFO crash, Roswell is a quirky city that boasts a UFO theme and storefronts plastered with weird alien images. You can get an in-depth look into the extraterrestrial world and strange stories of unidentified flying objects by visiting Roswell’s International UFO Museum and Research Center

One of the most unique things to do in New Mexico, UFO fanatics can visit this museum to see exhibits highlighting the “Roswell Incident” and hear stories about crop circles and alleged abductions. Take a guided tour for a behind-the-scenes look at Building 84 at the Roswell Army Air Field and pick up alien-themed souvenirs from the on-site gift shop. 

What to do in New Mexico: Discover Aliens in Roswell

If aliens aren’t your thing, you can still visit this unique city and explore its outdoor attractions and museums. Some of the top cultural attractions in Roswell include the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art, Roswell Museum & Art Center, and Spring River Park and Zoo.


22. Sled the Dunes at White Sands National Park

New Mexico Things To Do: White Sands National Park

Considered one of the greatest natural wonders in the world, White Sands National Park is truly unlike anywhere else on earth. Known for its one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences, the unique landscape of glistening white sand creates beautiful wave-like dunes within the 275 square miles of desert. 

It’s the world’s largest gypsum dune field, offering fun around every corner with opportunities to go sledding, hiking, cycling, or dune driving. The dunes almost look like snow, making it an exciting destination to hop on a plastic snow-saucer and plunge down the hills on an exciting sledding adventure. (The best sledding dunes are between mile markers 4-6!)

When you’ve had your fill of adrenaline-pumping action, follow one of the five established trails for an up-close glimpse of the unique terrain. Offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains, the Dune Life Nature Trail features outdoor exhibits along the way, while families with kids can opt for the elevated Interdune Boardwalk. 

If you’re interested in plant life, take the self-guided Native Plant Garden Tour that highlights native and seasonal foliage of the Chihuahuan Desert. For an epic night under the star-studded sky and a chance to see nocturnal animals, plan for a backcountry camping adventure. 

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23. Go Underground at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Unique Things to do in New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Adventurous travelers will want to add Carlsbad Caverns National Park to their list of things to do in New Mexico. Hidden beneath the surface of this national park are more than 119 caves of various sizes, boasting gigantic rooms covered in spectacular rock formations. 

You can explore the natural wonders at your own pace. The Big Room Trail is the most popular route and is only 1.25 miles round trip. The name of this cave gives a clue as to what you can expect, as the immense formations in the Big Room fill every nook and cranny. It is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America and there are interpretive panels along the way.

All caves here offer spectacular views, but the Natural Entrance Trail is the steepest at the equivalent of 75 stories deep. (There are elevators to take you down if you’re not up for hiking the 750-foot descent.) For an in-depth experience, ranger-guided tours explore less-visited areas. 

Above ground, there are various desert hiking trails with ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, and desert wildlife. Kids will love the hands-on exhibits at the Visitor Center, which tell the story of how the cavern was formed and the plants and animals that make the desert their home. 


24. Enjoy Water Sports at Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Home to New Mexico’s largest lake, Elephant Butte Lake State Park offers year-round, family-friendly fun for water sports lovers. Kayaking, jet skiing, sailing, and pontoons are some of the favored activities, while fishing, boating, and camping are also popular.

At New Mexico’s largest state park, you can get your thrills with water sports or kick back on the sandy beaches. Golf fans can practice their swing at the nearby Sierra del Rio, a top-rated golf course in New Mexico featuring rolling fairways, water hazards, and tiered greens.

Less than a 10-minute drive away, you should definitely stop off at the town of Truth or Consequences. Formerly known as Hot Springs, the small resort town is a hotspot for wellness tourism and a great place to relax and recharge. 

Called “T or C” by locals, the town has a rich history of people visiting its springs to take advantage of their unique healing properties. Feel your stress melting away while enjoying relaxing body treatments such as massages, mud wraps, and private soaks.


25. Experience Small-Town Charm in Silver City

What to do in New Mexico: Silver City Gila National Park

If you want to get off the beaten path and away from tourist crowds, visit the charming town of Silver City. Stroll the historic downtown area to browse its art galleries and see colorful murals dotting Main Street, then visit the Silver City Museum to learn about the town’s interesting copper mining history. 

Nestled in the foothills of the Pinos Altos Mountains, Silver City’s high-desert location also makes it a magnet for outdoor lovers. It serves as an ideal home base for exploring Gila National Forest, a 3.3 million-acre area with unspoiled beauty featuring incredible hiking trails, hot springs, and scenic drives.

You can also take a road trip 1.5-hours north to discover the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Dating back to the late 1200s, the people of the Mogollon culture once called this place home. You can take a glimpse into the past by exploring the ancient caves, which are accessed via the 1-mile Gila Cliff Dwellings Trail.

Head to the Visitor Center to see a collection of unique artifacts from the Mogollon people before exploring the wilderness area. You can pick up a park map to find several hot springs in the area, including Lightfeather Hot Spring, which is just a 20-minute walk from the Visitor Center.

There you have it! 25 of the best things to do in New Mexico. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Land of Enchantment?


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best art museum to visit in New Mexico?

Built in 1917, Santa Fe’s New Mexico Museum of Art is the oldest art museum in the state and deserves a mention of its own. Set in a traditional adobe building, this iconic architectural landmark showcases more than 20,000 pieces of artwork, focusing on a collection of American art from the Southwest.

What is the best historical attraction in New Mexico?

If you’re a history buff, you should put Pecos National Historic Park at the top of your New Mexico bucket list. Set amongst the pinon, juniper, and ponderosa pine woodlands of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this park boasts a Civil War battle site, cave dwellings, and artifacts that date back almost 1,000 years to the Ancestral Pueblo peoples.

What is the best spot for whitewater rafting in New Mexico?

The perfect activity for thrill-seeking adventurers, New Mexico’s Rio Grande is consistently regarded as one of the best spots for whitewater rafting in the Southwest. It’s the most popular activity on the 1,885-mile-long river and best to do during the spring and summer months. Brace yourself and prepare to get wet while knowledgeable guides help navigate the Maze, Albert’s Falls, the Narrows, and the Thunderdome.

What is the best hot spring in New Mexico?

After a day of hiking, nothing beats a relaxing soak in a natural hot spring. Accessed by a 5-mile hike through the Santa Fe National Forest, San Antonio Hot Springs is one of the best hot springs in the USA. Only about two hours north of Albuquerque, the set of natural pools are tucked away in the Jemez Mountains and features stunning vistas of the valleys below, where the only noise you’ll hear is the tranquil sounds of nature.

Where is the best place to go skiing in New Mexico?

If you’re a snow sports fanatic, Taos Ski Valley should be on your New Mexico bucket list. It’s the largest ski resort in New Mexico and a mecca for skiing and snowboarding, offering a diverse range of world-class terrain and 110 runs. Set at the base of Kachina Peak, Taos Ski Valley offers some of the lightest powder in North America.

What is the most unique thing to do in New Mexico?

The Four Corners Monument, also known as Four Corners Tribal Park, is the only place in the United States where you can stand on four states at once. Sitting at the junction with Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, visiting this quirky attraction is one of the most unique things to do in New Mexico.


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